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Big Data: What Is It & What Does It Mean for Law Firms

Posted by Daniel Pasquarelli on Tue, May 23, 2017

Big Data: What Is It & What Does It Mean for Law Firms

by Daniel Pasquarelli / May 23, 2017

Big Data: What Is It & What Does It Mean for Law FirmsThe computational analysis of extremely large data sets (called Big Data) can divulge patterns, trends, and associations to assist lawyers with case research, settlements and judges’ rulings. Law firm marketers can use Big Data to learn what potential clients are searching for on the web or when funneling through their firm’s website.

Before diving in headfirst and learning how Big Data can assist you and your law firm, let’s learn a little bit about Big Data first.

Big Data Defined

In one sentence, Big Data can be defined as “a collection of internal and external data acquired from traditional and digital sources used for ongoing discovery and analysis.” But at its core, Big Data is so much more.

Big Data comes from all different sources at a ginormous speed and volume. Every social media exchange, including email, text, video and audio files exchanged through systems, sensors and mobile devices generates it. But in order for Big Data to be more than a tangled, skein of information, you need optimum processing power and keen analytics to extract meaning from the data. Data without meaning is useless.

To avoid the common problem of Big Data overload, an investment in analytics is a significant piece of the data puzzle. Otherwise, you will be data rich, but insight poor. To truly understand Big Data, industry leaders, like Gartner devised the famous five Vs back in 2001 to explain Big Data:

1. Volume - the amount of data.

2. Variety - the type of data, both internal data and dark data (similar to dark matter in physics, dark data cannot be seen directly, yet it is the bulk of the organizational universe).

3. Velocity - the speed of information generated and flowing into the enterprise.

Since then, additional Vs have emerged, including Big Data’s “veracity” and “value.”

4. Veracity - the biases, noise and abnormality in data. In a nutshell, is the mind and stored data meaningful to the problem being analyzed? 

5. Value - Will the insights you gather from analysis create a new product line, a cross-sell opportunity, a cost-cutting measure or a new client?

No matter how you view Big Data, one thing is clear: partners and attorneys must determine the value of Big Data based on what it means to their law firm, how it can assist them in their jobs and how it can provide important insight into data-driven marketing.

What Does Big Data Mean for Law Firms?

Big Data technology is evolving in order to provide endless information to meet law firms’ quest to cut costs, grow their firm and better handle cases in the following important ways: 

Predictive Coding

As you know, reviewing millions of documents across multiple jurisdictions during eDiscovery is a costly and lengthy process. Some experts cite that document review comprises as much as 75 percent of the eDiscovery budget. Predictive coding uses computer-generated algorithms based on the expertise of attorneys (human modeling) to code and prioritize documents without the need for document-by-document human review. Predictive coding can reduce costs and better identify key documents. In addition, the number of U.S. courts endorsing predictive coding technologies continues to grow. 

Benchmark Against Competitors 

Law departments can analyze Big Data to benchmark themselves against the industry to determine competitive and profitable rates for cases, adjust hourly billing rates, reduce spend and control legal costs based on practice area, firm location, etc. When attorneys have layered views into costs of legal services, it is easier to cut the best deal on legal services by region.

Target Prospective Clients

When you learn the Internet behavior of prospective clients, including favorite social media platforms and websites visited, you begin to learn a lot about their likes and dislikes. Using Big Data to analyze search patterns and users’ journeys allows you to create marketing strategies aimed at specific targets through specialized landing pages and improved website content.

Better Hires

Big data can enable HR managers to crunch all sorts of data on potential new employees, including how an applicant performs during an assessment and if the recruit is best suited for your firm.

Predict Judges’ Behaviors

Rulings can be incredibly subjective depending on personal factors. Armed with Big Data, attorneys can now analyze judges’ decisions, biases and previous case records to become familiar with how particular judges make decisions so they can prepare their cases for more favorable outcomes.

Assist in Trials

Big Data can be used during trial to prove or disprove timelines of alibies during testimony by proving witness or client whereabouts with audio records, cell phone records, and even Fitbit devices, often within a 48-hour window. Big Data can even be used in jury selection to analyze jurors’ biases through their web history and general digital footprint.

Digitize U.S. Case Law Library

Ravel Law and Harvard Law School are working together to digitize the entire U.S. case law library and make it public by 2017. Through the use of digital libraries and case files, digging through piles and piles of papers and books will be a thing of the past. This will save time and money, which can be passed on to clients. When research is quicker and more accurate, the door to gaining insight from Big Data to help sign additional clients opens wider.

There are many opportunities for growth and improvement with Big Data, and lawyers and law firm marketers must “up their game” to see what the technology can do for them.

Big Data is a powerful, technological tool that many enterprises have used to gain valuable insight into their business for years. In the world of law, Big Data is relatively new, but it is revolutionizing how lawyers market their firm and how they practice law. The future of Big Data promises to assist the legal world with research and case preparation like never before.


BigSquare is the leading provider of Business Intelligence for law firms and professional service organizations.  We focus exclusively on law firm reporting, law firm BI, law firm profitability and law firm analytics.

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